Muscular dystrophies represent a heterogeneous group of disorders, which have been largely classified by clinical phenotype. In the last 10 years, identification of novel skeletal muscle genes including extracellular matrix, sarcolemmal, cytoskeletal, cytosolic, and nuclear membrane proteins has changed the phenotype-based classification and shed new light on the molecular pathogenesis of these disorders. A large number of genes involved in muscular dystrophy encode components of the dystrophin-glycoprotein complex (DGC) which normally links the intracellular cytoskeleton to the extracellular matrix. Mutations in components of this complex are thought to lead to loss of sarcolemmal integrity and render muscle fibers more susceptible to damage. Recent evidence suggests the involvement of vascular smooth muscle DGC in skeletal and cardiac muscle pathology in some forms of sarcoglycan-deficient limb-girdle muscular dystrophy. Intriguingly, two other forms of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy are possibly caused by perturbation of sarcolemma repair mechanisms. The complete clarification of these various pathways will lead to further insights into the pathogenesis of this heterogeneous group of muscle disorders.
Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.